“Out on the patio, we sit, and the humidity, we breathe. We watch the lightening, crack over cane fields, and laugh and think, this is Australia…” Gang Gajang
IT’S more rooftop terrace, than patio, the humidity has conceded to a ballsy bay breeze, there’s fireworks, rather than lightening, and the cane fields sit a bit further north. Australia Day, 2019, and I’m plonked on the rooftop of the sassy Sebel Margate overlooking Moreton Bay, perched on a bar stool, clutching a crisp Aussie white, and spinning a bit of bullshit with two mates. A cheeky breeze has whipped the white caps into a minor celebrity frenzy, while along the bay, Aussies have hoisted makeshift tents adorned with Southern Cross flags. One bloke has even settled in for a long day of drinking by dragging his tattered, brown leather loungeroom recliner chair, and planting it along the boardwalk. You’ve got to admire that sort of commitment.
I’m 45 minutes north-east of Brisbane, celebrating our January 26 national day in style, in this bayside suburb which harks back to a more serene Australia. One of seagulls, sand and simplicity. The prevailing hot northerly has blown in both blue bottles and bare bums, festooned with our controversial Union Jack/Southern Cross combo. Down on the street, there’s even a rare telephone booth. Out on the blustery bay itself, a fleet of sailing boats is leaning a bit too far to the right, reminding me a bit of Australia these days. Some days you just have to wait to tack.
From my lofty perch on the fourth floor, I spy a luxury cruise liner slowly stalking Moreton Island on the horizon. It’s the same bay which lured my great, great grandfather Christian to sail from Hamburg aboard the Susanne Godeffroy in 1863, in search of a better life. Five generations later, I still carry his surname, and in my wildest dreams, when I’m out in the world as a travel writer, I like to think I’ve also inherited some of his pluck. The Australia Day weekend is the unofficial marker for Aussies to seriously return to work and school, and soon enough, I too will be setting sail again in search of stories. But on this day, I’m content in my chair on the rooftop where a barbecue sizzles along with the conversation. How lucky are we to be born in Australia? Even better, in south-east Queensland, with beautiful bays and boutique hotels to boot?
The $15 million Sebel Brisbane Margate Beach, opened in May last year, is a lovely addition to this seaside scene. I am fortunate on this busy summer weekend to have secured a king-suite in this 58-room hotel, which eschews a beachy interior in favour of industrial chic with its exposed brick walls, brass, and cow hide leather couches. There’s even free retro bicycles for guests to borrow and cycle along the esplanade here. Dine at the Margate Beach House on the ground floor and you’ll experience the creativity of two-hatted chef Michael Harris, whose career launched at the flagship London hotel, the Dorchester. Overlook the bay and feast on local Queensland produce such as Smoked King Ora salmon and Fraser Island Crab cannelloni; Darling Downs Wagyu; and Mango and Passionfruit cheese cake.
Sated, plonk yourself by the rooftop pool and watch lazy bay days unfold. And that’s what this bay, and the Sebel Margate, is all about. This is no glamorous Gold Coast, nor is it the sizzling Sunshine Coast. Rather, this darling destination transports you back to an Australia you might remember, one of sandcastles and sun-kissed sleeps. Late at night I sit on my oceanfront balcony and look out at the Southern Cross sky. I don’t need these five stars tattooed on my skin, as they’re deeply etched in my soul. I had just forgotten, for a brief moment in my busy life, where to find them.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of The Sebel Brisbane Margate Beach. https://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-B2R3-the-sebel-brisbane-margate-beach-/index.shtml
THE waves are whispering off the reef, but in my half-awake/half-asleep daytime slumber, I can’t quite catch what it is they are saying. I am snatching a languid nap on the veranda day bed, listening to this seaside lullaby and the resort staff singing as they work. I have flown, overnight, on the new Samoa Airways’ Brisbane-Apia route and on the only plane it its fleet, a 737-800. The airline launched last year to replace the former national carrier, Polynesian Airlines, which ceased flying in 2005, due to financial issues.
On board, the baby blue vinyl seats remind me of the interior an old FJ Holden and the seat belts are just as tricky to buckle as well. There’s no seat 13 on this plane, and in 14F on the flight over, apparently no button to recline my seat either, despite it not being in an exit aisle. The seat pitch itself is generous, with plenty of leg room, with some saying it’s a deliberate move to accommodate for the typically larger frames of Samoans. I don’t eat on the late overnight flight, instead preferring to lay across the three seats available on this leg, but despite having my eye mask on and my pashmina over my body, am shaken awake by a male steward, asking whether I want the “beef or chicken”.
I arrive in the Samoan capital of Apia just as the sun rises and am transported across the island to Seabreeze Resort in the south. This adults-only resort is a consistent award-winner, and it’s easy to see why. Owned by Australians Chris and Wendy Booth, there’s just 12 rooms all overlooking the ocean and where the staff and service are immaculate. Over lunch, I ask Wendy whether Samoa possesses a masculine or feminine energy, and she doesn’t hesitate with her response.
“It’s got a masculine energy. Everyone looks to the father of the family,” she says.
“The mother plays a very important role in Samoa but she’s quite happy to be in the background. The women are very powerful people in Samoa.
“The men are the fathers of the family but if someone wrongs you, the father will defend your honour.
“It is an interesting society and interesting in the village. Everyone shares the upbringing of the children. It works because everybody has something to give.
“There is no ownership in Samoa. The biggest belief they have is what goes around, comes around.”
There are 2000 people in the local Aufaga village and I have the incredible privilege of meeting some of them. I attend the local school, a make-shift affair for around 200 kids while their old school is being rebuilt, and there’s a sea of pink and green uniformed faces waiting for me. Turns out they have been practising their dance moves and singing all week. The boys do the haka and the girls perform a kind of hip hop hula. I am invited to repay the compliment and shake a leg, and the kids are in hysterics. This “palagi” (white girl) can’t dance.
I visit a village family who have cooked me an entire chicken as a gift that I share with a colleague, and watch as they roast a pig underground in a traditional umu, covered in leaves. They’ve done this just for us, and it’s delicious. I’m touched beyond words. For people who have so little to give, they have shared this feast with me.
My week unfolds like the daily tropical storms. I walk through steamy jungle foliage to visit gushing waterfalls, I swim, kayak and snorkel in the lukewarm ocean, and on my last day, a Sunday, I go to church. Some of the village kids remember me, smile, wave and sing out “hi Chris” like we’re old friends. There’s a pesky lump in my throat which turns to tears when the Samoans start to sing church hymns.
Oe my last night, I check into the Honeymoon Villa, which sits on its own private point overlooking the ocean. There’s a luscious lobster with my name on it and I dine, alone, under the stars. I have lounged on plump day beds and enjoyed a facial replete with local ingredients such a cucumber, honey, lime and banana. Later, when the moon rises, I snatch a sneaky skinny dip in my private plunge pool under the night sky. There’s a stingray, sashaying through the shallows. I search for the spiritual meaning of stingray. It means protection. I look out to the ocean and silently thank Brother Samoa for looking after me on my journey across the South Pacific.
On the Samoa Airways flight home, in seat 26A, my tray table is so damaged, I cannot actually eat my food from it, as it slides right off, and I note one of the drop-down screens which displays the safety message doesn’t deploy. For a short-haul flight, and boasting some great launch specials, it’s a good option from Australia’s east coast, but don’t expect any frills. The inflight entertainment is via wifi and you don’t need to download an App beforehand. There’s a reasonable selection of movies, TV shows and games to keep you entertained on this flight which is about five-hours long. The food and beverage is also retro…there’s the beef or chicken… but despite my initial scepticism about the chicken dish, it turns out to be tasty. Alcoholic beverages are extra, and you must pay in cash, but the full glass of red wine was good value for $5.
Back in Brisbane, my luggage arrives promptly, but when I open my case back home, all of my clothes inside are soaked, despite there being no rain in Apia when I leave, or Brisbane when I arrive. With only one plane in its fleet, Samoa Airways is taking a huge punt should anything go wrong on its routes which include Sydney, Auckland, Pago Pago, Apia and Brisbane. But the airline does have plans to introduce a second plane in March next year, and an agreement with Qantas and Fiji Airways to assist should the plane not work for any reason. I really wanted to like Samoa Airways, and overall, if you are looking for a retro ride that will get you across the South Pacific, for a competitive price, and pleasant and professional staff, consider this airline. With a few tweaks, and more attention to detail, this airline could make the Samoans proud of once again, having a national carrier.
The Global Goddess flew as a guest of Samoa Airways https://samoaairways.com and stayed as a guest of Seabreeze Resort http://www.seabreezesamoa.com
The children at Aufaga Village school desperately need reading and other school material. You can donate these to Seabreeze Resort and one of the staff, who lives in this village, will ensure they are delivered.
A FLIRTATIOUS French fellow is pouring a sexy shiraz from a pleasingly phallic stem, while explaining the sex muscle of a cow. I am dining in one of Brisbane’s oldest riverside restaurants, revisiting the classy classic that is Cha Cha Char…and my tastebuds are ready to rumba. While Cedric, the restaurant’s General Manager is ensuring I am well libated, it’s the steak here that really does the talking.
Brisbane’s beef baron John Kilroy opened Cha Cha Char 21 years ago after working in country pubs and vowing to “never sell a steak again in my life.” These days you’ll find every steak imaginable on his restaurant from the Wagyu Rump Cap which has been grain fed for 300-plus days; the Rib Fillet Black Onyx Angus aged 30 to 36 months and grain fed for 270-plus days; to the T-Bone Angus Yearling aged 12 to 18 months and grass fed. This is a man who knows his meat. When he’s not in the restaurant, he’s out mustering with mates “for fun”.
Kilroy, as he is known about town, was the first to introduce Wagyu to a sceptical Brisbane dining public who hadn’t yet cottoned on to the idea of marbelling in their beef. Now, he is about to tantalise the city’s taste buds with the introduction of a new cut, the French Blonde D’Aquitaine beef, to his menu. There’s also the new light dishes, tapas if you will, of the Oyster Carpet Bag bao bun with Wagyu striploin, oyster and bernaise sauce; and the Bugs BBQ served in brioche roll filled with Blonde D’Aquitaine steak tartar.
Not content to rest on its laurels, Cha Cha Char will soon transform the private dining room in which we are sitting into a Wagyu bar.
It appears there is not rest for the wicked for this country boy who once couldn’t read and was assisted in gaining his first job by Flo Bjelke-Petersen who helped him secure a role as a Main Roads surveyor…despite Kilroy having no surveying skills.
By his own admission, Kilroy has lost and made millions of dollars over the years, but for him, success all comes back to the customer.
“I can take a piece of meat in this town and make it tender just by the way it is cooked,” he says.
“Owning restaurants is not just how much money you have in the bank. You get to know people.
“I get to travel the world in people’s big boats and jets and planes. You never know who you are going to meet in there.”
Kilroy admits Brisbane palettes have come a long way “everyone knows Wagyu now” and has moved on from the days when calamari was used for fishing bait.
“We didn’t used to eat these things in Australia but people are eating anything now. A lot of this has to do with travel,” he says.
“There is passion in this restaurant. I can put a plate of food in front of you and in 30 seconds I know if you are disappointed or not.
“We’re just dishwashers listening to people. It is a very rewarding business.”
Along George Street, the Queensland capital has just opened its doors on new Indian restaurant Heritij in the new Brisbane Quarter. In this cavernous space, overlooking the Brisbane River towards South Bank, there’s dining for 210 people including private spaces such as The Library, Cellar Room and Passage, each accompanied by their own inspirational quote outside. I am feasting at the Captain’s Table, inspired by the quote “Around my table we make the big decisions, we solve the world’s problems, yet never lose sight of the deck or horizon.” It’s a fitting tribute to a city whose dining scene is on fire.
Outside, on the deck, it’s all breezy, blue cushions and river views, accompanied by a chic bar set up, while inside, it’s plush royal colours…purples, turmerics, navy blues, emerald greens, reminiscent of a Maharaja’s palace. The food here is fit for a king, with the pungent scent of the smoky tandoor wafting through this beautiful, big space, punctuated by voluminous, brick columns. While Michelin-star Chef Mural and his talented team weave their magic with the likes of chicken thigh, Thai basil, mint, rhubarb, zucchini, pineapple and kasundi from the tandoor, he pays homage to his homeland with his curries such as Kashmiri lamb, Goan fish, chicken Makhna, spinach kofta, black lentil dahl and vegetable masala.
“Indian food is incomplete without curries,” Chef Mural says.
“I don’t want everyone to be disappointed if there is no curry served in my restaurant. We used to serve this food in the home.
“Kofta is very close to my heart. My mother used to make this.”
Back over at Cha Cha Char, I ask Kilroy, the self-made man who has lost and made millions over the years, what he would do if it all went belly up.
“I’d go to Europe and buy a little restaurant on the beach,” he says.
“To me, it’s all about the people.”
We’re a bit like that in Brisbane.
The Global Goddess dined as a guest of Cha Cha Char – http://www.chachachar.com.au; and Heritij – https://heritij.com.au
IT’S 3am at my present position on the world map, perched 40,000 feet somewhere above the Indian sub-continent. And I am sipping on Moroccan mint tea, replete with real mint leaves served on the side, and chewing on a sweet, sticky baklava. While the rest of the cabin still slumbers, I am dining at my own leisure, courtesy of Etihad Airways “Dine Anytime” menu. There’s about two hours left to go on this 14-hour flight from Australia, but this particular journey feels neither long, nor a haul. For I have the great fortune of flying in Etihad’s next-generation Business Studios. And yes, they are as sweet as the baklava upon which I am feasting.
I have boarded the B787 aircraft in Brisbane the previous night, bound for Abu Dhabi and am greeted with mystical Middle Eastern music. Inside, it’s part gentleman’s club, part plush Arabian tent with soft lighting and gold trimmings. The seats, said to provide 20 per cent more space than the airline’s current Business Class seat, are designed in a 1-2-1 forward and backwards “dovetail” configuration. With sliding screens between seats, it feels more private jet than commercial airline.
The Studio features its own steady, large solid table, ideal on which to work inflight, but unlike some other airlines, there is no free Wi-Fi. Depending on your point-of-view, this could be an enforced digital detox, or you can pay a nominal fee to stay connected. For those who wish to relax, there’s an 18-inch touch-screen TV. For those who wish to work, there’s power sockets and USB ports at every seat.
What sets this airline apart from many others is its superior service. At the Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2018, Etihad Airways was named “Airline with the Best Economy Class”; “Airline with the Best Frequent Flyer Programme” and “Airline with the Best First Class”, and it’s easy to see why. Hot towels are not clumsily handed to you with tongs, but served on individual silver platters, before you are presented with a glass of signature champagne – Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut. International newspapers are delivered and from the “Dine Anytime” menu you can select from the likes of a steak sandwich, lamb and rosemary pie or a Gruyere cheese frittata. There is also a diverse a-la-carte menu from which to choose, boasting western and Middle Eastern starters such Arabic mezze; mains of chicken kasba and basmati rice cooked with Gulf spices; and deserts of chocolate lava cake served warm with pistachio anglaise. Sip on a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or South African chenin blanc, or for red lovers, a Barossa Valley shiraz or Chilean maipo. The beer selection includes Stella Artois and Peroni.
Sated, rummage through your Business Class amenity kit to apply your Scaramouche + Fandango facial moisturiser and lip balm, before donning a plush, large eye mask and ear plugs. The airline has collaborated on its amenity kits with luxury travel brand LUXE City Guides which are inspired by five cities on the Etihad network – Abu Dhabi, New York, Melbourne, Rome and Bangkok. There’s even a city guide in each kit, but it’s a slightly curious addition to be given a Rome city guide when you are flying to Abu Dhabi.
The seats recline to 6-foot, 8-inch fully flat-beds and the pillows are plump and a decent size, adorned in all the colours of the desert to which you are flying with browns, tans, ochres and golds. The doona has a gorgeous plush underside. All of this ensures you’ll arrive at the other end as fresh as possible. And I do. In the rare event you don’t, there’s even an Arrivals Lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport where staff will press your clothes while you shower and shave.
Leaving Abu Dhabi is even more spectacular, as this is their signature airline. At Abu Dhabi Airport, First and Business Class guests have their own private entrance and there’s even free porters to assist you with your bags, as well as private check-in. Both First and eligible Business Class guests also have access to a free chauffeur service within the UAE and upon arrival at the airport, both classes boast day spas in their lounges. While First Class guests can enjoy a complimentary spa treatment, Business Class guests pay a nominal fee for a treatment such as a Jet Lag massage, which is a welcome addition before a long flight.
2018 has been declared the Year of Zayed, celebrating 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE. And Etihad is devoted to honouring Zayed’s core values of respect; wisdom; sustainability; and human development. The airline is offering complimentary cargo flights to UAE charities, bringing aid and relief to people in need around the world in a bid to spread Zayed’s humanitarian message. At the same time, 1000 selected guests from around the world are being invited to experience Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions; and Etihad is also collaborating on the Abu Dhabi Birdathon, a race which celebrate’s Zayed’s passion for conservation. Etihad is also renaming its training buildings the Zayed Campus and launching Young Aviators in a bid to inspire the next generation in the UAE. If you can judge a country by its flagship carrier, then Abu Dhabi is in great shape indeed.
The Global Goddess flew to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airlines in one of their world-class Business Studios http://www.etihad.com/en-au/
She stayed as a guest of Abu Dhabi Tourism https://visitabudhabi.ae/au-en/default.aspx
JUST like this camel caravan I captured in the Sahara Desert, I’ve been working hard to attract more followers. For the past year, I’ve posted a photo a day on Instagram and recently hit my first 1000 followers. I’ve also posted more than 1000 photos, so that’s at least 1000 reasons to follow me. Here’s a selection of my most popular pics, taken from my global travels over the past six months, and published under my Instagram handle @aglobalgoddess. I’d love to see you over there.
From the desert dust to the brilliant blues of Chefchaouen, Morocco served up a kaleidoscope of colour and charm.
Indonesia’s beautiful Bawah Island gave me the blues, in the best possible way.
Finland’s Lapland was all white and all right.
Back home, the Aussie summer served up its bushfire orange sunsets and aqua beach days.
While on my first trip to Japan last month, it was better to be red, than dead.
Follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess
ENSCONCED in an international airline lounge you can be anyone in the world. This journey begins in the Emirates Lounge in Brisbane, where, wrapped in my purple pashmina, I pretend I am a princess of Persia. I am whiling away the hours before my flight to the Middle East, dreaming of delicious dates that dance around my mouth like music, and figs that foxtrot. I snack on bright beetroot hummus and tangy tabouli. There’s beef carpaccio with truffle pecorino. I swirl Moet around my palate to wash down white and dark chocolate profiteroles with chiboust cream filling. It’s a delectable start to an exotic trip.
Fourteen hours later, and I land in Dubai where, in this Emirates Lounge, I am a maiden of Morocco, my ultimate destination for this travel tale. This close to my delicious destination, I can already smell the souks. The riads are becoming real. In this luxe lounge I sip mint tea, take a spiffy shower and daydream of cool Casablanca nights where I am Bergman in search of her Bogart. In another six hours, the warm north African breeze will frizz my hair and curl my mind. I can’t wait to wrap the foreign place names around my tongue. Marrakech sounds like a lover. Fez, like someone who could betray me. There will be desert nights and delights. Camel rides and sleeping under the stars. Haggling in the heat. Sandals and sand storms. Mosques and mountains. I am brimming with wonderment.
International airline lounges offer us that rare, brief, delightful pause in our travels. I want to announce to all of the other strangers with whom I share this sacred space that I’m off to Casablanca, slowly sounding out each brilliant consonant. But they are entwined in their own fabulous fantasies. Instead, I use this as a chance to stretch my legs and unleash my over-stimulated mind, allowing it to roam free. For it is here, waiting in airports, that we forage among our imagination and dare to dream of new horizons and bold beginnings. We think of old lovers and new friends we are yet to meet. As for Emirates, it’s one of the best in the business. Would I travel with them again? Play it again, Sam.
The Global Goddess was a guest in both lounges of Emirates https://www.emirates.com/au/english/ and is travelling in Morocco as a guest of Intrepid Travel https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/morocco/morocco-uncovered-100927
I DON’T wish to be a braggart, but I have finally found the one exercise class at which I excel. Sleeping. And if you don’t think that counts as physical fitness, then you’d better talk to the fine folk at Brisbane’s InspireCycle gym, for it is here that late last week I discovered my special gift. Yes, I attended my first Napercise class. What is Napercise? Well, this pop-up class at the Teneriffe-based fitness centre, sponsored by Naptime Australia who specialise in all sorts of sleeping products, is an exercise class where you basically, well, have a nap. Yes, I forked out $15 to drive across the other side of the city on a Friday afternoon, to have a 45-minute sleep.
I’d read about this a few weeks prior on Facebook and was intrigued by the concept. It’s all the rage in major cities like London and New York and it appears Brisbane has now leapt into bed on the act. But what does one wear? Should I buy a baby pink pig onesie for this class? Who else would be there? Would I meet the man of my dreams (see what I did there?). What if I snore? What if someone else snores, can I smother them with a pillow? So many questions plagued my every waking hour leading up to this class.
Driving across Brisbane mid afternoon Friday I could see the last stragglers dragging their sorry bottoms back to their-city offices after lunch for those last, utterly miserable moments of the working week. “I’m going to nap class,” I wanted to shout out of my car window at the traffic lights. I could feel their weariness in every bone in my body.
I arrive at class and my instructor Tess bounces out of the nap room. She’s just had a nap herself. I look around me and it slowly dawns on me that I am the only one here. Tess says they’ve been attracting between 9 and 12 people every day for the past two weeks of the pop up, but today being a Friday, and the last day of Napercise (for now), turns out I’m the only one.
So I’ve paid $15 and driven across the other side of the city on a busy Friday afternoon to lay in a room on my own and nap? I could have done this at home. I smile at the irony. There’s half a dozen beds in the middle of the room from which to choose and another four over near the wall. I feel like an exotic blend between Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty. I choose the bed closest to the door and Tess takes me through some basic stretches. Then, she lifts up the doona, invites me to slide into bed (on my own, no monkey business here, although Tess is rather lovely) and put on an eye mask, before she tucks me in and leaves the room.
I lay in the middle of a cavernous gym room, on my own, under a doona trying not to laugh. I feel like I am on school camp without the other campers. Should I try to sleep? What if Tess forgets about me and doesn’t come back to wake me up in 45 minutes as promised. What if she closes the gym for the night and goes home? I reason with myself that at least I have a bed. I also figure gyms always have energy drinks and bliss balls. There’s always bloody bliss balls. I won’t starve, they have showers and toilets, I have food and water, and I’ve got somewhere comfy to sleep. But worse, what if this is a front for some white woman slave trade and one minute I’m slipping under a doona in Brisbane, and the next, I wake up on a cold, hard slab in Istanbul with a scar where one of my kidneys is meant to be?
I’ve just finished this trapped-in-a-gym fantasy when Tess returns to the room and gently tells me it’s time to wake up. She asks whether I slept and looks disappointed when I tell her I only really rested. (If only she knew what my mind was churning through). I assure her it was a nice rest, and anyway, I’m a huge fan of quirky and this was definitely quirky. Tess then presents me with a free pair of slippers, socks and a facial mask, telling me everyone who attends Napercise gets a gift. I jump in my car and drive home. Frankly, I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get to bed.
(Postscript: the next day I wake up to an email from InspireCycle and I’ve “earned” 20 points towards another class for my “efforts” in this class).
The Global Goddess paid for her own Napercise Class at InspireCycle, Teneriffe. Check out their website for other great classes http://www.inspirecycle.com.au If Naptime’s beds were as comfortable as the one on which I rested, you might also want to check out this Australian company, and other Napercise classes around the country, at http://www.naptime.com.au